Lord Adrian: “be prepared to separate mothers from children”

Source: Lord Adrian The British Medical Journal Vol. 1, No. 4977 (May 26, 1956), pp. 1189-1192.

It is true also that what can be done elsewhere depends in part on what the public opinion of the country allows; preventive health services are bound to interfere with individual liberty, whether they condemn a slaughterhouse or send a patient to a fever hospital, and if they aim at mental as well as physical health they must be prepared to separate mothers from children and to supervise the lives of people who would like to be let alone. This may involve wider powers and responsibilities for the medical officer, but he has already some responsibility for the mentally disabled, and public opinion will certainly support him in any reasonable preventive measures. There is a danger, none the less, that by too much insistence on measures which have not been well considered, by too much official visiting and advice, the Mental Health Services may forfeit the co-operation without which they will certainly fail–co-operation from the general practitioners, the schoolmasters, the parents, and the public at large.


The statement above generated some controversy, in particular the bolded parts (added).  Below is an excerpt from Bernhard Schreiber who concluded one of the chapters of his book, The Men Behind Hitler, with a reference to it.

The influence of a huge professional body could not be halted by the mere death of over a quarter of a million mental patients and others, and at least a million Jews in the T4 extermination camps, it could only be slowed; but the ranks are reforming for the next social onslaught which this time may not be disguised by war but by charity. Lord Adrian, member of the Eugenics Society, the British NAMH and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, expressed this kind of charity in a speech he gave in 1956:

…preventive health services are bound to interfere with individual liberty… and if they aim at mental as well as physical health they must be prepared to separate mothers from children and to supervise the lives of people who would like to be let alone.

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